The organized team activities (OTAs) portion of the NFL Offseason is one where things can get silly sometimes.
It's a point in time where everybody looks good, so and so is better than ever, and there is hope within 32 different buildings across the National Football League.
While OTAs are technically optional, they're really not. Anybody who is a competitor and a point of stability on his team is present for them. Obviously there are rare exceptions, but typically if you're absent from OTAs it means that you're not 100% committed.
These days it seems like Rolando McClain, who has yet to show up to OTAs, has other interests. We learned on Wednesday that McClain has been in Alabama with his children, and perhaps there's more to that story, but he is and has not been with his Dallas Cowboys teammates.
Rolando came into our lives through the just before the magnificent 2014 Dallas Cowboys season. In a season bereft of Sean Lee, he filled in valiantly and proved to be the Middle Linebacker we need (although not necessarily the one we deserve... that's Jaylon Smith). When Sean Lee came back in 2015 he proved that the Weakside Linebacker spot is indeed where he belongs as he was voted to his first ever Pro Bowl (where he picked off Eli Manning by the way).
With McClain temporarily, arguably willingly, out of service that means there is a gaping hole in the middle of the defense (there's a sentence we've said a lot over the years...). The Cowboys are working during OTAs and have someone taking the reps that would otherwise be Rolando's (you know, if he showed up or whatever).
Andrew Gachkar https://t.co/e1Vbp8WiRU
Can Andrew Gachkar Really Be This Team's Starting Middle Linebacker?
That's the million dollar question, isn't it? Technically it's the $3,375,000 question (McClain's 2016 cap hit, per Over The Cap).
Gachkar, aka The Gach, actually started one game last year for America's Team. It was the fiasco at home against the Philadelphia Eagles where, of all people, Sam Bradford threw a game-winning touchdown at the expense of our beloved Dallas Cowboys, JJ Wilcox, and Brandon Carr.
I'm not about to pretend that Andrew Gachkar is the reincarnated version of Ray Lewis. The only thing he's got in common with the Greatest Baltimore Raven Ever is his jersey number. For what it's worth though, the Cowboys could certainly do a lot worse than 'ol Andrew.
The fact that Andrew is the one taking the reps intended for McClain is indicative that he's the clubhouse leader to be the guy in a world without 55 (and Jaylon Smith still healing). Assuming Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens are your other starting linebackers this leaves the newly re-signed Kyle Wilber and last year's Training Camp sensation Damien Wilson as other candidates.
Gachkar had actually never even played the MLB spot prior to the time that the Cowboys spent in Oxnard last summer. He comes from a 3-4 scheme in San Diego, but his versatility is what makes him most valuable. He's been able to adapt to most situations and that, coupled with his size (he's an inch shorter than McClain albeit 25 pounds lighter), is what makes him a strong contender at the MLB spot.
I, and host Bobby Belt, spoke with The Gach last year on Cowboys Cast so I can tell you firsthand that the guy is all about work, work, work (not the Fifth Harmony kind unfortunately). I know that song says that you don't gotta go to work (x6) but Andrew does go to work. That's what makes him awesome.
While Rolando McClain is tending to family business (a common occurrence during his days in the Blue & Silver) Gachkar is getting invaluable time with one of the most underrated coaches in the NFL - Matt Eberflus.
Let's not forget that beyond his inability to actually show up for work, Rolando McClain is sometimes forbidden to show up to work. Last year he was suspended for the first four games of the season thanks to a failed drug test. His on, and off, the field drama certainly doesn't fit Head Coach Jason Garret's "Right Kind Of Guy" mantra that he famously preaches.
Andrew Gachkar does.
Hopefully The Gach can make the most of these OTAs and the offseason opportunities that present themselves to him. The fact that he's willing to at least try is what already has him leaps and bounds ahead of Rolando McClain.
What do you think? Should Gachkar be given a legitimate shot to start at Middle Linebacker if Rolando McClain keeps this up? Let us know! Comment below, Email me at RJ@RJOchoaShow.com, or Tweet to me at @rjochoa!
Report: Amari Cooper Likely out for the Rest of the Preseason
Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Amari Cooper is likely out for the remainder of the preseason according to ESPN's Todd Archer. He is currently dealing with a form of plantar fasciitis that has kept him out of practice since August 6th.
The three-time pro bowler changed life in Dallas last season as the team went 7-2 in it's final nine games after he was acquired to win the NFC East. Cooper isn't worried about any long term effects, though, as this is something he's familiar with.
"I'm not worried about it at all, because I know if it does linger, it doesn't matter," Cooper said. "I had 1,000 yards when I played on plantar fasciitis before."
The Cowboys host the Houston Texans this Saturday in what is known as the "dress rehearsal" game before the regular season. Starters normally play about a half of football to get the juices flowing for when games really count in September. Ideally, the plan would be for Cooper and Dak Prescott to get a rhythm of sorts before the season starts but that will have to wait until the team prepares to take on the New York Giants on September 8th.
However, the good thing here is this issue doesn't seem to be serious and Cooper will be ready for the start of the 2019 season.
Report: Cowboys Agree To Contract Extension With LB Jaylon Smith
The Cowboys are neck-deep in contract negotiations with some of their team's most important players, but it appears they have gotten one key guy signed this afternoon.
ESPN's Todd Archer is reporting that the Cowboys have agreed to a contract extension with middle linebacker Jaylon Smith, though the exact terms of the contract have yet to be announced.
The Cowboys have agreed to a contract extension with linebacker Jaylon Smith, according to sources. Smith was set to be a restricted free agent after this season but the Cowboys and his representatives started talks in the spring and they ramped up once camp began. Smith, a...
Of course, the Cowboys drafted Jaylon Smith early in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft despite the horrific leg injury he suffered in Notre Dame's college bowl game. Some didn't think Smith would ever recover to be the same player he once was, but in 2018 Smith emerged as an excellent middle linebacker once again. Smith finished the 2018 season with 121 combined tackles and 4 sacks, and has looked just as imposing thus far in the preseason.
Smith regained his athleticism and sideline to sideline speed, while retaining his impressive hit power and sound tackling to become one of the league's best. Combining Smith with Leighton Vander Esch, the Cowboys have put together arguably the best linebacker group in the NFL.
And now, there's no end in sight for the dynamic duo.
Report: 2 Dallas Cowboys to be Activated off of P.U.P. List
Per a report from ESPN's Todd Archer, the Dallas Cowboys will soon activate Tyrone Crawford and DeMarcus Lawrence off of the Physically Unable to Perform (P.U.P.) List.
"The Cowboys are planning to activate defensive linemen DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford from the physically unable to perform list on Tuesday, according to a source. They will work through individual drills in their first steps on the field before going through full practices. Lawrence had shoulder surgery not long after signing a five-year, $101 million contract in April. Crawford has been working his way through a hip issue that kept him out of the offseason program. Safety Byron Jones (hip) and receiver Noah Brown (knee) remain on PUP."
Todd Archer - ESPN.com
This report comes after DeMarcus Lawrence had offseason shoulder surgery in April and signed his five-year deal making him the highest-paid player in the history of the Dallas Cowboys, at least for now. It looks as if Lawrence will be ready for a week one return.
It's long been believed that Lawrence would be available for week one of the regular season and hasn't suffered any setbacks to this point that should lead you to believe otherwise. With Robert Quinn suspended for the first two games of the regular season and Randy Gregory's status still up in the air (he still hasn't applied for reinstatement), getting Lawrence and Crawford back for the first two weeks of the season becomes instrumental.
The Dallas Cowboys defensive line has looked really good through the first two games of the preseason, but as good as they've been, they'll need Lawrence and Crawford once the regular season starts. Lawrence will slot back in as the left defensive end and Tyrone Crawford will split snaps at right defensive end with Dorance Armstrong and 3-technique defensive tackle with Maliek Collins, Trysten Hill, and Kerry Hyder.
While the additions of DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford will help the defense tremendously, there still isn't a timeline on the return of Pro Bowl Cornerback Byron Jones. Jones has been out since having hip surgery this offseason.
With as good as the Dallas Cowboys defense has looked this offseason, there's reason to believe that they can be even better once each of these guys are back in the lineup full-time. For a defense that was one of the 10 best defenses in the NFL in 2019, they'll need Lawrence, Crawford, and Jones to make the jump into the elite stratosphere of NFL defenses.
With the Dallas Cowboys' eyes set on capturing that sixth Lombardi Trophy, getting Lawrence and Crawford back in time to be ready for the regular season is vital to starting the 2019 season off right.
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